This time of the year, a lot of websites and blogs come up with recipe series like '12 days of cookies'. Given the number of food websites and books I read, it is getting quite rare for me to get excited over a new cookie. No excitement really, in a new flavour of shortbread or yet another variation on the snowballs. But one cookie caught my eye this year. The Ischler, from a book by Rose Levy Beranbaum, is an almond cookie filled with chocolate and a thick apricot spread called lekvar. We will get to the cookie in due time but the lekvar deserves a post of its own.
Lekvar is like a fruit butter but made with dried apricots. When buying apricots, you will have the choice between bright orange and the brown variety. I chose the brown ones because they have no sulphur and are healthier. I halved the apricots to remove the seeds. You are looking for 230 grams of deseeded apricots. Combine these with 1 cup water in a saucepan and let soak for 2 hours to soften the apricots. After two hours, cover the saucepan with a lid and look on the lowest heat possible for 20-30 minutes. Keep a watch towards the end of the cooking time - mine had started to stick a little at the bottom of the pan so add a little water if the mixture gets too thick. Cook until the apricots are quite soft.
Let cool, then put the whole apricot/water mix in a blender alongwith 1/2 cup sugar, zest and juice of one lime and if you can find it, 1 tsp apricot brandy (I used normal brandy instead). Blend until smooth, then pop it back into the saucepan and simmer on a low heat for 10-15 minutes until the mixture is very thick. Remove from heat and put in a glass bowl/bottle. Cool completely, then put in the fridge where it should last almost indefinitely. I am going to make the cookie filling out of lekvar but I can also think of several other uses. Think crepe filling, or a bright sunshine orange spread for your morning toast.